The growth of Research Software Engineering and its vital role in research

Simon Hettrick

18 October 2023 - EnhanceR Symposium, Bern -  @sjh5000     ORCID: 0000-0002-6809-5195

If we want software sustainability as default behaviour we must change academic culture

Is software important?

Research software is software that you use to generate, process or analyse results that you intend to appear in a publication.


It can be anything from a few lines of code written by yourself, to a professionally developed software package.

Use software

Fundamental to results





"Not at all"



Who is writing all the software?

Ascension, John Singleton Copley, Public Domain

A brief history of Research Software Engineers

2012: birth of a name







The Research Software Engineer is a new role in research.


It combines an intimate understanding of research with professional software engineering expertise

2013: campaign begins &

first RSE Group



March 2019

2014: the UKRSE Association

2016: the RSE Conference

~10,000 RSEs worldwide

Image courtesy Ian Cosden

The Society of Research Software Engineering was founded on the belief that a world which relies on software must recognise the people who develop it

Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come

- Victor Hugo

What's the impact?

RSE Conference 2022



How many RSEs

in your group?

Describe demand for

your services

Adverts on with "Research Software Engineer" in the title

Research software engineers who port and maintain these codes and optimise system performance are a crucial part of operational infrastructure

Universities should embrace Research Software Engineering as an intellectually and academically creative collaborative discipline, especially in health, with realistic salaries and recognition.

You can use the funding for:

  • development and re-engineering of existing software
  • maintenance activities
  • activities that widen participation in development and maintenance.

What next?

If we don't recognise the work that is vital to research,

we limit our ability to conduct research


(Parts of) books

Journal articles

Physical artefacts

Exhibitions and performances

Other documents

Digital artefacts

120 submissions in total

With the emergence of software as the pre-eminent research tool used across all disciplines, comes the realisation that a significant majority of results are based, ultimately, on the skill of the experts who design and build that software.

 - RSE State Of The Nation, 2017


Thank you!


ORCID: 0000-0002-6809-5195, EPSRC Grant no: EP/S021779/1


 © Simon Hettrick. These slides are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International :

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The growth of Research Software Engineering and its vital role in research

By Simon Hettrick

The growth of Research Software Engineering and its vital role in research

Presentation for the EnhanceR conference in Basel on the importance of RSE and how supporting RSE advances research

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